Donald Trump has, on several occasions this election cycle, likened himself to Ronald Reagan, invoking the conservative icon to explain away past liberal positions and casting himself as the next great conservative president.
As recently as Wednesday, Trump was presenting himself as an heir to Reagan, saying, "he wasn't a true, hardline conservative. But he was a conservative person, a conservative president. He was a great president."
As has been previously reported, Trump has not always held Reagan in such high esteem. In his book The Art of the Deal, published in 1988, the businessman wrote that Reagan "is so smooth and so effective a performer that he completely won over the American people. Only now, nearly seven years later are people beginning to question whether there's anything beneath that smile." That same year, Trump took out ads in national newspapers criticizing U.S. foreign policy under Reagan.
In a 1991 interview with Joan Rivers, Trump, while expressing confidence in President George H.W. Bush, criticized Reagan for driving up the country's deficit.
"It just amazes me, it amazes me. I think George Bush is gonna be a great president," Trump told Rivers. "I feel very strongly about it."
"When, when?" interjected Rivers. "We're sitting in the toilet. It started with Reagan and we're crushing now."
Trump responded, noting Bush had a lot to fix and citing the deficit driven up under Reagan.
"In fairness, if you look at Reagan this country went $200 billion a year behind and somebody's gonna have make up the difference and better be made up awfully quickly."
Trump also called tax policy changes passed under Reagan in 1986 a "disaster."